BURGHILL - Workers could be seen from nearby Hayes-Orangeville Road zipping around the base of the newly erected drilling rig towering high above the site.
Cranes and heavy equipment rolled around the property, even late into the afternoon New Year's Eve, with workers appearing to focus more on the task at hand than on the impending holiday. That's because drilling could start as early as today.
The initial drilling process, known as "spudding" is scheduled to begin today or Wednesday, said Vince Bevacqua of ShaleComm, local spokesman for Houston-based Halcon Resources.
The well, named "Brugler" for property owner Glenn Brugler, will be the first well in Trumbull County to begin tapping into the Utica Shale, the vast expanse of gas thousands of feet below eastern Ohio.
Matt Eiselstein, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, confirmed Monday that state inspectors have been to the site noting that drilling is set to begin. The well received its permit Nov. 2.
The only other Trumbull County well to have received a permit from ODNR so far is in Vienna Township. That well, planned by CNX/Consol Energy, received a permit June 21, but since then officials from CNX have said they have decided to delay plans for drilling there.
Tribune Chronicle / Brenda J. Linert
Trumbull County’s first Utica Shale horizontal well is expected to begin drilling in coming days in Hartford Township.
Brugler said a drilling engineer told him it would take 67 trucks to relocate the rig from its previous site just a few miles east in Mercer County. He also has been told the drilling process will take about 35 days.
Brugler on Monday said the whole plan was hatched more than six years ago when he signed with Cobra Leasing LLC, a company planning to drill just a shallow natural gas well that could help provide heat for Brugler's home.
''We live in a really big farm house and we heat with fuel oil. We were after a way to heat the house,'' Brugler said. But after Cobra sold the lease first to Carrizo LLC, then again to Halcon, deep well drilling in the Utica Shale came into the picture. Now they are talking about the possibility of drilling horizontally in at least six directions from the pad.
''With the money they are talking, it's kind of a no-brainer,'' he said, even though he regrets the loss of about eight acres of farm land he has used to grow crops like corn and wheat.
Neighbors with property that abuts Brugler's 61 leased acres expressed mixed emotions Monday with the proximity of the huge rig clearly visible from their front yards.
Donald Baxter, who resides just east of the well site and R.J. Rufener, who resides just west of the site, separately expressed concern with the safety of their drinking water and with the anticipated drilling noise. Both, however, noted they have leased their mineral rights with Halcon and are crossing their fingers that the decision turns out to be beneficial for them.
Since crews began setting up the rig in the past week, Rufener described the site as noisy and lit up "like daylight" even at night.
''They are busy trying to get it set up,'' Rufener said. ''I am excited about it, but the water concern is the biggest part of it. We are not fortunate enough to be sitting here with city water. If it affects our well, it could really damage the value of your property.''
Baxter echoed the feeling.
''Everybody around here is worried about the water,'' he said, noting that he also had signed originally with Cobra only because he thought it would be a simple vertical well. Since then, his mineral rights also have been transferred to Carrizo and now to Halcon. Baxter said Halcon has tested the water at his home and promises to do it again after the drilling process. Still that provides little consolation for him and his family.
''If it's bad, what are they going to do?'' he asked.
Brugler shares the concern. ''Hopefully they don't hurt it,'' he said simply. "I am told the well is double encased through the water table. They think they are protected. An ODNR inspector is on site, too.''
Rufener noted that Brugler's acreage was carved out of land originally owned by Rufener's great-uncle, who sold it to Brugler in 1984. Rufener also is hoping that horizontal drilling under his property will amount to lucrative royalties.
But he noted with a wink that he is not quitting his job yet.
Brugler shared in the cautious optimism. ''Like anybody, we are waiting to see.''